We made it through an entire state girls basketball tournament without a controversy, only for one to arise when four full days of games finally ended.
In Saturday’s final game of the season, Parkersburg finished off a dominant march through Class AAA with a 63-52 win over University in a game that was much tighter than most expected.
The Hawks did a better job than almost any team that the Big Reds played this year, handling Parkersburg’s full-court press and limiting star players Shay-Lee Kirby and Madi Mace.
But University couldn’t extend its defense far enough to cover junior Bre Wilson. It’s doubtful any team could. Because Wilson lit up the arena and the nets, pouring in 27 points and hitting six 3-pointers, all of which came from deeper and deeper as she ventured into the state logo at mid-court at the Charleston Coliseum.
It was chill-invoking for those familiar with Wilson’s story. The 5-foot-10 wing, who is Parkersburg’s third-leading scorer behind Kirby and Mace, blew her knee out a year ago in a state semifinal against Parkersburg South during the Big Reds’ title run.
Wilson didn’t play in a narrow win over Buckhannon-Upshur in last year’s state title game. Parkersburg is lucky she did this year.
It should’ve been a perfect moment for Wilson, holding a state-championship trophy with a freshly cut net hung around her neck. But as the celebration on the court winded down, names from the Class AAA all-tournament team were read over the PA system and one thing was missing – Wilson’s name.
Wilson’s absence from the team was a nonissue in the postgame press conference – coach Scott Cozzens used a question asked about it to praise all of his players.
That’s what kind of team Parkersburg is. Kirby became the school’s all-time leading scorer while scoring 11 points during Saturday’s game. But it was all about the title afterward.
Wilson, the most soft-spoken of the Big Reds’ big three, didn’t touch the subject when it came up.
Mace summed up the Big Reds’ team-first mentality in maybe my favorite quote of the week when asked if she’d have been surprised that Wilson would’ve outscored she and Kirby in a championship-game win.
“I wouldn’t have cared,” Mace deadpanned.
But while the players and coaching staff may have downplayed Wilson’s omission, I won’t. It was flat-out robbery and should be the death knell for a flawed selection system.
Mace, Kirby and Aleea Crites all combined to score 27 points on Saturday. Wilson scored 27 points on Saturday as well. Three of them landed on the all-tournament team and one was left out.
Value is not all about scoring and we may have seen that play out more this week than ever as dominant defenses ruled the week and the season. But over a three-day span, Wilson led the state’s best Class AAA team in overall scoring, averaging 19.7 points in the tournament while providing her typical invaluable length and athleticism in Parkersburg’s vaunted press.
Anyone who’d paid half attention to the tournament could’ve seen that Wilson was one of the best eight players in the field. She may very well have been the best. So how much, or little, attention are some of these all-tournament voters paying?
In the interest of full transparency, I had a vote, as did all the media lined on press row. Wilson was certainly on my ballot and on those of most I conferred with after.
There are a few things I know about this year’s process. First, several ballots had been turned in before the tip of the state championship game. How you could justly vote before the most important game of the tournament, I have no idea.
Second, this year is obvious proof that some voters aren’t taking this selection process seriously or that there are people with a vote that have no business with one. Either way, on a weekend that included a story illustrating the West Virginia Secondary School Activity Commission taking a progressive step toward a possible four-class system, let’s go ahead and fix this, too.
It shouldn’t be too difficult.
I understand the necessity of having ballots collected in time to count them before the end of the game. But, if the WVSSAC can keep multiple people on press row to judge the school spirit and sportsmanship awards, surely, we can task a person or two to work a few hours on Saturday counting votes during the fourth quarters of championship games.
Secondly, ballots shouldn’t even be allowed to be turned in before the second half of the game, much less encouraged or asked for.
Also, shouldn’t we reexamine just who is voting on these things? Again, in full transparency, I don’t know the number of voters or who is allowed to vote. I do know that it’s not restricted to just the media or others that that are at the event all week paying attention to what’s happening on the court.
This is a slippery slope, I understand that. All-tournament worthiness is often a matter of opinion.
But Wilson belonging on this year’s Class AAA team is absolutely not opinion – it’s a fact.
I had a lengthy conversation with WVSSAC executive director Bernie Dolan on Friday evening, the results of which led to a story in Sunday’s Gazette-Mail on the four-class proposal. Afterward, I personally commended him on recent proactive stances.
Almost exactly 24 hours later, another flaw showed itself on the sport’s biggest stage and it was obvious to nearly everyone in the arena. Too bad all of them weren’t allowed to vote.
So, let’s hope the WVSSAC fixes this, as well. Buy a ninth plaque, hand deliver it to Wilson’s house (shouldn’t be hard with headquarters in Parkersburg) with an apology, add Wilson’s name to the all-tournament record books, and make a few changes to prevent such a slight from happening to a deserving player again.